Thursday, September 24, 2009

I'm not half the man I used to be. It's Yesterday's fault.

Opportunity knocks for Paul McCartney of Liverpool.

I'm no Rockefeller, but I'm a feller who rocks, so I was recently gifted with not one but two Beatles box sets containing every, last thing the band has ever recorded - in stereo and mono, no less.

As it is, I listen to, think and write about the Beatles altogether too much for a normal human. But the box sets have taken my unhealthy love for the band and turned it into a dangerous addiction; you know that something's up when you have a dream that you're directing the movie "Help!" and you wake up angry that Ringo won't take the film shoot more seriously.


You also know that something's not right when every time you see your reflection in a window, you instantly think:
Why she had to go
I don't know, she wouldn't say.
I said something wrong,
Now I long for yesterday-ay-ay-ay...
It's pretty incredible that "Yesterday," Paul McCartney's two-minute acoustic ditty buried at the end of the second side of a soundtrack ("Help!" - the film I dreamed I directed!), has the power to take a bright and sunny day and really make you feel crappy. But in a good way!

I think about this song a lot.

What is it about "Yesterday," especially in light of everything that the Beatles ever recorded, that makes it the song with the staying power? I don't know, I can't say. I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday-ay-ay-ay...sorry, got carried away there.

Part of it probably has something to do with the universality of the lyrics - they're vague, which means that everyone can relate or read into them. The song also has an air of mystery, which is the magic ingredient in most things to which we feel loyalty beyond reason.

Even the narrator doesn't know why "she" had to go - and the girl's not saying. So, the guy says something stupid, and now there's nothing left for him to do but remember how it used to be and long for something he can never get back.

Ray believes in Yesterday.

So does Frank.

Musically, "Yesterday" is deceptively simple: Paul sings with a string quartet for two minutes. In reality, it's more complicated than it seems.

Wikipedia, help me out here:
"The first section ("Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away...") opens with a positive F-major chord, then moving to E-minor before resolving to its relative A-major and thence to D-minor.

"In this sense, the opening chord is a decoy; as musicologist Allan Pollock points out, the home key (F-major) has little time to establish itself before "heading towards the relative D-minor." He points out that this diversion is a compositional device commonly used by Lennon and McCartney, which he describes as "delayed gratification."
Yeah, and the melody's purty too!

Dreamy, man

It's fitting that I dreamed I directed "Help!" because Paul McCartney dreamed that he wrote "Yesterday," and then he did. Does that mean I have to direct the film now?

Thinking he had "cryptomnesia" - a bogus disease that means you plagiarized someone without knowing it - McCartney asked everyone he knew if they'd ever heard the song.

Once convinced he'd really written it, he wrote the words and called it "Scrambled Eggs." I guess, "I believe in scrambled eggs" didn't have the necessary gravitas he was looking for, so "Yesterday" was born.

Between you and me, I believe in yesterday and scrambled eggs equally. And I believe that Elvis probably did too:

Domingo, Duck, Dylan, detractors

Though not initially released as a single in the U.K., the Guinness Book of World Records says that "Yesterday" is the most-recorded song in the history of civilization at 3,000 cover versions and counting, and Broadcast Music Incorporated says it has been "performed over seven million times in the 20th century alone" by everyone from Domingo to Duck to Dylan:

O Sole Yesterdio!

I believe in Quacksterday.

The Yesterdays they are a-changin'.

The song is not without its detractors; Bob Dylan, even though he recorded the above version of the song, never released it and made it be known that he thought there were better songs "in the Library of Congress."

John Lennon apparently wasn't a fan, nor were George Harrison and Starr, who thought the song was too different from the other Beatles songs to be a single. This may have been the first case of a band preventing one of its members from "going solo;" if only No Doubt and Wham! had considered doing the same, imagine what they could've done.

Then again, they might have done this:


Cheer up, old chap, the sun'll come out tomorrow.


  1. Nice analysis. Now please comment on the use of contrapuntal bass lines in Beatles songs.

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